Countdown to NBA Tip-Off: Sacramento Kings Season Preview

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NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 15: Kentucky Wildcats guard De'Aaron Fox (0) during the second half of the NCAA basketball game between the Kentucky Wildcats and the Michigan State Spartans in the Champions Classic on November 15, 2016, at Madison Square Garden in New York. (Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

After trading their superstar center last season, the Sacramento Kings continued their rebuild, a process that seems like it has taken decades. You have to go back to the 2005-06 season to find the last time that the Kings were relevant in the NBA landscape. With a young and talented core, Sacramento looks to turn some heads this season and continue to build a contender. Here is the 2017-18 Sacramento Kings season preview.

Countdown to NBA Tip-Off: Sacramento Kings Season Preview

What Worked Last Season

What worked last season? Well, not a whole lot. The Kings ranked below average in almost every stat category. Two stats that stand out are field goal percentage and three-point percentage. Per Basketball-Reference.com, the Kings ranked 13th in field goal percentage and fifth in the league in three-point percentage, despite finishing just 24th in points per game. So, although the Kings weren’t outscoring their opponents most of the time, at least they were efficient on the shots they took.

What Needs Improvement

Among all teams, the Kings ranked 28th in offensive rebounds and 25th in defensive rebounds, according to Basketball-Reference. Considering that they had one of the best centers in the league for most of the season, these numbers are pitiful. The low rebounding numbers mean that this team isn’t getting many second chances to score, or even just to prevent fast breaks from the opposition. It’s no wonder that the Kings ranked so low in scoring, despite their solid efficiency – their opponents simply got more shot attempts. If this team wants any shot at competing this year, everyone must help out on the glass.

Off-Season Changes

When they traded DeMarcus Cousins, the Kings got back a package that most notably included Buddy Hield, who was the sixth pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, as well as two future draft picks. One of those picks became the 34th selection in this year’s draft, Frank Mason III. The Kings also acquired two more picks on draft night, Justin Jackson and Harry Giles. Thrown in explosive rookie De’Aaron Fox, and the Kings have several young players entering the fold. A fresh start will help this team, one that has been so dysfunctional for so long. Hield looks to build on his strong play since joining the Kings, as he averaged 15 points and shot 48 percent from the field to close the 2016-17 season.

Along with their busy draft, the Kings brought in a bunch of veterans to help guide the younger players. They signed George Hill, Vince Carter, and Zach Randolph to team-friendly contracts. All three players should be able to help both on the court and in the locker room

Hill is coming off one of the best years of his career, which he had last season with the Utah Jazz. He averaged 16.9 points per game, a career-high for a full season. He’s also a tenacious defender. Hill’s experience and skill will help the team greatly in grooming its young guards, especially Fox. Randolph and Carter will provide much-needed production at their positions and give the Kings more veteran leadership.

2017-2018 Predictions

Projected Starting Lineup

PG: George Hill

No surprise here. The Kings didn’t pay Hill $57 million to sit on the bench. They’re going to get the most out of this contract while De’Aarorn Fox develops. Should Fox play extremely well, they can always slide Hill to shooting guard or trade him for more assets down the road.

SG: Buddy Hield

The key piece in the DeMarcus Cousins trade, Hield looks to build on his solid finish to his rookie year. This will be his first full season with the Kings.

SF: Bogdan Bogdanovic

The Serbian born player averaged 14.6 points in his last season in the EuroLeague, shooting 43 percent from three-point range. Sacramento will hope that Bogdanovic’s shooting prowess translates to the NBA in his first season.

PF: Zach Randolph

Although he took a role off the bench last year, Randolph is a battle-tested power forward and should be starting games until the younger players prove their value on the court.

C: Willie Cauley-Stein

The third-year big man took over the starting center job as soon as Cousins was shipped down south. He racked up big numbers in the last two months of the season, so he’ll look to build on that.

Key Reserves: De’Aaron Fox, Vince Carter, Justin Jackson, Harry Giles, Frank Mason III

Match-up to watch: Nov. 22, Kings vs. Los Angeles Lakers

This past March, Lonzo Ball and De’Aaron Fox met in the NCAA tournament. Fox erupted, scoring 39 points on 13-for-20 shooting. Ball, on the other hand, was held to only 10 points. Their first regular-season meeting will be on Nov. 22 in Sacramento. The two rookie studs will face off four times in the regular season. Their college basketball rivalry will look to carry over to the NBA, as the Kings and Lakers themselves are long-time rivals.

Season Predictions

Sacramento has the potential to make some noise, but there are a ton of questions about whether the team can stay consistent. Barring any long-term injuries, the Kings should compete all season long for the seventh or eighth seed in the Western Conference. But with the amount of talent in the West, it’s hard to picture them any higher. This year is one of growth for the Kings, so their priority is surely for their young players to make big strides. Still, expect them to contend for a playoff spot in 2018.

 

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Embed from Getty Images

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